The Selous vies with Namibia’s Etosha Pan as of Africa’s largest game reserve (22,000 sq. miles). But unlike Etosha which is nearly 80% uninhabitable desert, the Selous holds a rich biomass, including the continent’s largest number of elephant. Nearly half of the area is marsh and ever-changing water courses and sand rivers and includes the largest mangrove forest in the world. This is the delta formed by the mighty Rufiji River. The river drains more than 60,000 sq. miles of central Africa, the largest water catchment on the continent. A recently approved World Bank project would dam much of the Rufiji to produce one of Africa’s largest hydroelectric projects. If this occurs, much of the wild Selous would be dramatically transformed.
Most of the reserve remains restricted for hunting, but a growing portion is being gazetted for tourism. Historically, the northeast triangle of the resort contains almost all the tourist facilities, a number of excellent camps of wide-ranging quality located on the Rufiji and a few inland. Game viewing by boat on the Rufiji is a hallmark of most Selous safaris.
Named after the legendary 19th century explorer and hunter Frederick Courtenay Selous, the park is on the central circuit of Tanzania only 80 miles from the coast. But the overland journey is arduous and can take 8-10 hours.
This entire area just inland of Dar-es-Salaam has a very harsh climate. Heavy rains and high temperatures (above 100 F.) prevail from November-February, although this is arguably the prettiest time for the reserve. The longer and “cooler” dry season (May-November) may be no cooler than the hottest time in northern Tanzania but becomes the more popular tourist season.
The game is abundant year-round with no significant migrations of any species. But much of the game remains skittish when compared to game viewing on the more traditional northern circuit. But the much less visited character of the reserve and its difficult terrain has served to protect a wide range of endangered species. The Selous’ prize is the wild dog which is seen here more often than in any other East Africa park.